Thursday, June 4, 2009

"The Last War"

Ana Menéndez is the author of the novel Loving Che and the short story collection In Cuba I was a German Shepherd, which was a 2001 New York Times Notable Book of the Year and the title story of which won a Pushcart Prize.

She applied the “Page 69 Test” to her new novel, The Last War, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Last War offers a mini-summary of not just the plot of the novel, but its underlying themes of deception, cruelty and self-delusion. The setting is Istanbul – itself a city of many-layered narratives. The main character “Flash” has received an anonymous letter alleging her husband’s infidelity with a Baghdad colleague named Nadia. Flash is discussing the story of the letter with Alexandra, an old acquaintance who has mysteriously reappeared in Istanbul. It’s on page 69 that we get the first hint that Flash, for all her precision as a photojournalist, is not being completely honest with herself. It’s also the first time we get to see a bit of Alexandra’s hidden menace. And that’s essentially what the novel is about: All the ways we are cruel to one another.

Page 69:

Alexandra was first of all a writer, and this was a fascinating story. She could not help but be hungry for the rest of it.

“It’s a pretty ordinary tale,” I said. “Nothing to it. Happens a thousand times a day.”

“Don’t say that, Flash. A thousand times a day – what does that mean when what you’re angry about is that it happened to you?”

Her eyes were turned down, in sympathy. But they shone, curious.

“I want to know who wrote it,” I said.

“Don’t you want to know if it’s true?”

“First I want to know who, then I’ll know if it’s true.”

Alexandra frowned and looked out the window. “Likeliest suspect is Nadia herself.”

I hadn’t considered this.

“Maybe,” I said after a moment. “But she’s too much of a do-gooder to deliberately inflict pain.”

Alexandra arched an eyebrow, but remained silent.

“Moralizers have no problem breaking the rules and sneaking around when they know they aren’t going to be caught,” I said. “They have all sorts of ways of justifying what they do to themselves – or forgetting it entirely. But most of them usually stop short of active malice.”

“So you know her, then.” Alexandra was grinning, but there was something old and hard behind her eyes. I shifted in my seat, unable to meet her eyes.

“Not really,” I said.
Browse inside The Last War, and learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue